How To Get Oil Out Of Clothes: A Cleaning Professional’s Guide

by Kara Richards on September 30, 2018

If you’re wondering how to get oil out of clothes, you’re not alone. In this guide, we’ll give you tips on removing grease stains like a professional using common household items.

How to Get Oil Out of Clothes: A Cleaning Professionals Guide

Although they don’t stand out quite like a red wine spot or a coffee splash, oil stains are one of the most difficult types to get out of fabric. If you accidentally smeared a greasy finger on your clothes or had a mishap with your oil-based salad dressing, you know that the spots left behind aren’t easy to remove.

What’s more, if you don’t treat them quickly and correctly, oil stains can get set in the fabric and will deepen and look worse over time.

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

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Whether you have an old grease mark or the spill was recent, and you’re trying to do damage control, you need to know how to get oil out of clothes.

Fortunately, there’s good news. Although it’s not as simple as laundering the garment, you can take a few extra steps to eliminate the stain for good. In this guide, we’ll give you professional secrets on cutting through grease and getting rid of the spot for good with inexpensive household products.

You’ll learn about the most common types of oil stains, and get detailed instructions on how to remove them using products like dish soap, rubbing alcohol, or Windex.

The Most Common Types of Oil Stains

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

It might not seem like knowing how to get oil out of clothes is an important skill, but when you think about all of the ways you can get a grease stain, you’ll realize it’s always better to be prepared.

It’s most common to come into contact with oil in the kitchen or at restaurants. Cooking oils, salad dressings, or grease from foods like melted cheese, bacon, or a juicy burger can splatter on your clothes and make a mess.

Outside the kitchen, you might run across motor oil in the garage or on the road mixed with water after a rainstorm which can ruin a pair of pants for good. Oil-based paints are another possible culprit for clothing stains.

It’s helpful to know what caused the spot on your apparel as some treatment methods are more effective for different types of oil than others.

Act Fast When You Get an Oil Stain

If you know how to get oil out of clothes, then you know it’s possible even to beat tough stains that have had a long time to set into the material. However, it’s always easier to remove the spot if you act quickly after it happens.

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

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As soon as possible, take a napkin, paper towel, or tissue to the stain and blot it dry to remove any excess oil. Take care to dab at the grease and not to rub it. Rubbing will drive the substance deeper into the material and make it harder to remove.

Next, check the label on the garment to see if it’s color safe and washable. If it says that it’s dry clean only, you might want to get it to a professional to do the rest to ensure you don’t ruin the fabric.

The sooner you bring dry clean items to the cleaner, the better. In the meantime, sprinkle a bit of cornstarch on the oil stain to absorb as much of the oil as possible to give them a better chance and removing it.

If you can wash the apparel at home, then you’re safe to try one of the treatment techniques below to break down the oil and get it out of your clothes.

Although it might be tempting to throw the stained item in the washing machine right away, you’ll see better results if you take the time to do a little pre-treating on the spot.It’s also critical to remember that heat will set the stain, which means you’ll need to take some extra steps to ensure you don’t make the situation worse. Hot water is okay to use and can be effective, but stay away from a heated dry cycle or hot iron until you’re sure you fixed the problem.

Commonly Used Oil Stain Removers

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

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Several household products are effective at getting grease spots out of clothing and fabric. These are the most common:

  • Dish Soap
  • Hot Water
  • Baby Shampoo
  • Lighter Fluid
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Windex
  • WD-40
  • Corn Starch
  • Enzyme-Based Laundry Detergent
  • Commercial Stain Treatment Products (Shout, OxiClean, etc.)
  • Baby Powder

Although each of these substances has either proven or anecdotal success, cleaning professionals use dish soap, hot water, rubbing alcohol, Windex, and WD-40 often and with great results.

Below, we will explain how you can do it yourself with these easy to find and inexpensive materials.

How to Get Oil Out of Clothes with Dish Soap

Dish soap is formulated specifically to cut through grease when you’re washing pots, pans, silverware, and dishes which makes it a perfect choice to break down an oil stain on your clothes.

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

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Before you use it, be sure to check the label on the garment that tells you how to care for the fabric so that you know how to wash it safely. Pay attention to what temperature is appropriate, and if it requires hand washing so that you can adjust the steps to meet your needs.

Start by blotting away any excess grease with a paper towel making sure to soak it up from both the front and back of the stain. Don’t rinse the stain until after you’ve followed the next steps to treat the area.

Put a small drop of dishwashing soap, like Dawn, on the spot while the fabric is still dry. Let it soak into the material, and if needed rub the fibers together gently to loosen the grease. Allow it to sit and absorb for at least five minutes, and then rinse it with warm to hot water to get rid of the excess suds.

Finally, put the garnet in the washing machine and launder it with the hottest temperature the fabric can tolerate and a stain-removing enzyme-based detergent.

Lay the item flat or hang it and allow it to air dry completely. Be sure not to throw it in the dryer until you’ve had a chance to examine the dry garment in bright light to ensure that the stain is completely removed.

If there is still a grease spot, you can repeat the process to get any residual oil out of the fabric once it’s completely dry.

How to Get Oil Out of Clothes with Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another powerful degreaser, and it works particularly well on stains from thick oils like peanut butter. Follow the same protocol that we outlined above of scraping off any excess substance and then blotting before you begin.

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

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Next, grab a Q-Tip or cotton ball and wet it with rubbing alcohol. Then dab the alcohol into the fabric by gently pressing on the front and back of the material. Keep going until the area is saturated and wet. Let the alcohol sit for five minutes or more to give it a chance to break down the oil, and then rinse it thoroughly with the hottest water that the fabric can tolerate.

Lay the item flat or hang it and allow it to air dry, and then inspect the spot in natural sunlight to see if you removed the stain. If you were successful, launder the clothes like normal. If there is still some residue, you can repeat this process and then run it through a hot load in your washing machine.

Remember, don’t use a hot iron or throw the garment in the dryer until you're sure you’ve zapped the stain completely.

How to Get Oil Out of Clothes with Windex

Porous fabrics or certain fibers like carpet can make oil removal particularly difficult. If you are wondering how to get oil out of a wool sweater, for example, you might need to use Windex.

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

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Buy a bottle of the clear formula (not the blue kind) for Windex or a comparable glass cleaner.

Like in the process above, blot the grease from the area and then spray the dry fabric with the formula.

You want to get it wet enough that it soaks into the fabric, but you don’t need to saturate the material completely. Allow the clear Windex to sit and break down the stain for as long as 5 minutes, and then use a clean towel to dab the area and remove the stain.

Repeat as many times as needed until the oil is gone and then launder the garment as usual.

How to Get Oil Out of Clothes with WD-40

If you got an oil stain and didn’t realize it until after you washed and dried your laundry, you might still be able to fix it. Although it’s always best to treat the spot before it’s been exposed to heat from your dryer, WD-40 can act as a lubricant that rehydrates the oil and reverts it back to the consistency of a fresh stain.

 How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

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To give it a try, apply a generous amount of WD-40 on the old, dry stain and let it soak for a half hour.

Then, rinse the spot with the hottest water the fabric can safely tolerate.

Next, use a dot of Dawn dish soap and work it into the fibers to break down the oil from both the original stain and any left behind from the WD-40.

Let that treatment soak for as long as 30 minutes, and then rinse it with another round of hot water.

Finally, wash the garment with laundry detergent on the hottest appropriate setting and let it air dry.

Check to see that the stain is completely removed, or re-do the treatment to get improved results.

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